Economic Development

Economic Development Projects Show Promise

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Planning initiatives, infrastructure upgrades and development of new industrial properties are on the agendas of public and private economic development agencies in the five-county region. 

From shepherding potential projects to the finish line and implementing a new revolving loan fund for small business, 2020 is a year full of possibilities.

On Monday, we reviewed some of the economic development projects on deck for 2020. Here is the second part of that story.

City of Warren

Zoning will be among the development focuses in Warren, with downtown residential development and extending downtown beyond the boundaries of Courthouse Square being just two of the priorities, says Mike Keys, community development director. 

The condominium projects advanced by developer Mark Marvin demonstrate there is a market downtown for not only condos but also “market-type” apartments, he says. Projects such as the rehabilitation and conversion of the Reeves Building into upscale apartments “is important to us,” he says. 

He reports that the city expects to see further activity on the peninsula, just west of Courthouse Square, and investors also are looking at other downtown properties. 

“I’m getting a lot of requests from people looking for space downtown on the square. Part of the problem is there’s not much left,” he says.“Right now, everybody thinks downtown is the Square.” 

To extend downtown, Keys is looking toward the peninsula, where CharBenay’s Wine on the River opened west of the Square, and the Robins Theatre to the east, to connect those areas to downtown. 

The city also is working in the Golden Triangle area. Keys expects a groundbreaking soon on Dietz Road for the installation of new water lines. 

Other focuses in the Triangle include addressing the intersection of Larchmont Avenue Northeast and Bronze Avenue Northeast to make it easier for trucks to enter and exit, Keys says.  

Christopher Alan, CEO of Dasher Lawless LLC, reported to City Council last month on progress at the former General Electric and Delphi Packard Electric properties where he plans to design and build his AutoParkit automated garage systems. Alan said he plans to have 100 people working at the site by the end of 2020 and is working with local technical schools and universities to recruit employees. 

Having completed work on the interior of the G.E. building, Alan plans to begin moving some walls on the Dana Street side of the Delphi building to create truck access, and recently relocated one of his key personnel to oversee the work, according to Keys. “I’m hoping that we start to see more visible progress,” he says.

Meanwhile, the city has received some inquiries regarding the Opportunity Zone program, although there “hasn’t been a rush,” Keys says. The two properties that received the most inquiries – one of which was the abandoned St. Joseph Riverside Hospital – weren’t in one of the qualifying tracts. 

Western Reserve Port Authority

The Western Reserve Port Authority is working on several “opportunities that have availed themselves,” reports John Moliterno, executive director. 

“People approach us now because of the various programs we have available,” he says. Although the port authority is involved with multiple projects, it is rarely the single entity involved. “We see ourselves as part of a much larger team,” Moliterno says. 

The port authority, which in 2017 entered into a property development agreement with the city of Warren, is working “very closely” with Youngstown on putting together a similar agreement, he notes.  

Moliterno is optimistic about program changes in JobsOhio under Gov. Mike DeWine. Last year, it added to its focus areas providing assistance to military assets and the aviation industry. 

As such, JobsOhio has stepped up conversations with the port authority regarding the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and offered additional funds to attract air service and develop property around the airport, Moliterno says.     

And through its management of Castlo Community Improvement Corp. and the industrial park that Castlo owns, WRPA is growing its relationship with Struthers, Lowellville and Campbell, he adds.

Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp. 

Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., which last month received a federal grant to launch a $2 million revolving loan fund targeted to economically disadvantaged populations, is now working with area banks and officeholders in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to establish county-specific revolving loan funds.

“We’re looking to get MVEDC more visible to the community,” says Teresa Miller, MVEDC’s new executive director.

In addition, MVEDC is considering expanding the reach of one of its existing loan programs. 

MVEDC oversees the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program, which can be used to finance real estate and equipment purchases, in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Mahoning, Portage, Trumbull and Lake counties in Ohio and Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania. It is now looking at expanding its footprint by adding West Virginia. 

“There is no other certified development company in West Virginia,” Miller notes. 

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.